INFP vs. ISFP: How to Tell Them Apart

Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on February 22, 2022
Categories: Myers Briggs, INFP, ISFP

INFP and ISFP personality types have a lot of traits in common – so much so that they could be confused for each other at times. But they have some distinctively different traits as well.

So, how do you figure out the INFP vs. ISFP distinction?

Let’s look at some basic similarities they share, a key difference or two, and some things you can look for to help you figure out whether you, or someone you are close to, is likely to be a ‘Healer’ or a ‘Composer’.

INFP vs ISFP: What they have in common

INFPs and ISFPs have three letters in common – I, F and P. 

  • Introversion means they gain energy from having time to themselves, and tend to be deliberate in their behavior; thinking before they act. 
  • Feeling means they base decisions on their personal value system and the needs and wishes of others, rather than the cold, hard facts.   
  • Perception means they prefer things open-ended to allow for exploration of possibilities, rather than having too much structure. 

However, the biggest similarity between INFPs and ISFPs lies in their cognitive function stack

Both types have Introverted Feeling as their dominant function, and this is probably the most noticeable and important trait that the INFP and ISFP have in common. In fact, they’re the only two types that are dominant in this trait, which is what may make them seem so much alike.

There’s plenty that can – and has been – said about Introverted Feeling. But for the point of this post, all you really need to know is that it means, basically, that these types are guided by an internal set of deeply held values. They’re individualists motivated by their personal values and must be absolutely true to themselves at all times. 

Put these similarities together, and you have an individual who: 

  • Has artistic sensibilities
  • Shows strong empathy and compassion
  • Prefers peace over confrontation. 
  • Likes to do their own thing, their own way.

What makes them different?

Though INFPs and ISFPs have three out of four “letters” in common, the one that is different signifies an important difference in how they relate to the world.

INFPs think to the future, to what could or should be. They’re dreamers, idealists, and visionaries. They’re INtuitive, which basically means they’re more influenced by feelings, ideas, and abstract concepts rather than concrete, sensory information.

ISFPs are grounded in the here and now, what they can experience and understand through their senses. Unlike INFPs who are future oriented, ISFPs live in the present. If people use phrases like “practical” “present,” “good with their hands” and “in action,” they would almost always be talking about an ISFP (or other “S” personality) and not an INFP.

Often, you will notice this difference in the way the INFP or ISFP expresses themselves creatively. Both INFPs and ISFPs tend to be artistic in their temperaments, pursuits, and talents, and value beauty, whatever that means for them. However, INFPs tend to translate an aesthetic experience into words and ideas, whereas ISFPs let the thing speak for itself.

Let’s look at a few more INFP vs. ISFP tendencies to help you tell them apart, and decide which type you – or your friends – likely fit into.

A closer look at the INFP 

Just because INFPs are “in their heads” a lot and deeply tuned into their own feelings, it doesn’t mean they don’t observe and care about the world – or especially the people – around them.

They just may take longer to express it, and do it in more abstract terms.

INFPs care deeply, and are highly empathetic, so they make kind, patient listeners. They can also express and connect abstract ideas in a way that can help the other person feel understood and supported. They are often called “Healers,” and are about harmony, potential, and possibilities, for themselves and others.

According to Isabel Briggs Myers, “INFPs excel in fields that deal with possibilities for people.”

Some specific career choices include: artist*, writer, editor, psychologist, counselor, veterinarian,  massage therapist* or interpreter (* possibilities for both types).

You might be an INFP if:

  • You think more about the future, and possibilities, than the here and now
  • You’re creative, but mostly with ideas and abstract concepts, not so much with your hands
  • You could sit alone in a room with nothing but a book, a notebook, and your mind, and keep yourself engaged and entertained for hours
  • Even your close friends don’t always ‘get’ you
  • When you say “I see,” you’re using your brain
  • You’ve probably been told you make things complicated, think too much, or are ”too” sensitive”
  • You love words, ideas, and abstract concepts, and are good at connecting one situation or idea to another
  • People turn to you for compassionate listening, and for your ability to find just the right words or sentiments

A closer look at the ISFP

At Truity, we call ISFPs ‘Composers’ because of their innate sensibility for creating aesthetically pleasing experiences. In the words of Isabelle Myers, “The work of their hands is usually more eloquent than anything they say.” 

Some jobs that might be a good fit for them include: artist*, fashion designer; interior designer; healthcare; jeweler, florist, mechanic, massage therapist* and animal trainer. 

You might be an ISFP if:

  • You like to be grounded in your senses, and fully experience your environment in the moment
  • You’re creative, but mostly with physical things, such as making visual art with your hands
  • Though you like time alone, you need something to be happening to keep you interested
  • When you say “I see,” you’re primarily using your eyes as you connect sensory information and use it to make art or inform your experience
  • People turn to you for your practical, “love in action” approach 
  • You’re good with your hands, with your senses, with things, and you use that ability to help others, or to make the moment more enjoyable

Takeaway

INFP vs. ISFP at a glance

INFP            ISFP

words            things

ideas            senses

future            here and now

possibilities        practical

complex        fun

INFPs and ISFPs are compassionate individualists with dominant introverted feeling. Both love beauty and art, but define and relate to it differently.

An INFP would more likely write a book about an artistic movement and what it stands for, or write a poem turning what they see into a metaphor, while an ISFP would more likely take a photograph or make a sculpture.

INFPs are focused on the future, on possibilities, and on words and ideas. ISFPs enjoy being in the moment and like taking action and experiencing and understanding the world through their senses. 

Did you see yourself in one of these? Either way, you’re in good company, but now that you know more about each type, you’ll be less likely to confuse them.

Diane Fanucchi

Diane Fanucchi is a freelance writer and Smart-Blogger certified content marketing writer. She lives on California’s central coast in a purple apartment. She reads, writes, walks, and eats dark chocolate whenever she can. A true INFP, she spends more time thinking about the way things should be than what others call the “real” world. You can visit her at www.dianefanucchi.naiwe.com or https://writer.me/diane-fanucchi/.

More from this author...
About the Clinical Reviewer

Steven Melendy, PsyD., is a Clinical Psychologist who received his doctorate from The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. He specializes in using evidence-based approaches in his work with individuals and groups. Steve has worked with diverse populations and in variety of a settings, from community clinics to SF General Hospital. He believes strongly in the importance of self-care, good friendships, and humor whenever possible.

Comments

BeGee (not verified) says...

The more I evaluate INFP and ISFP together and apart, let me introduce myself:
the INSFP ;)

MeToo (not verified) says...

I'm on the same boat as you hahaha.... and I am sea sick

Kris (not verified) says...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one...lol.  I always feel that one needs to read both of these descriptions for the real me!

nati (not verified) says...

SAME LOL

Elliana (not verified) (not verified) says...

I'm an INSFP too! Hi buddy!

Ermie (not verified) says...

The more I read on the descriptions the more I have to question if I use Ne or Ni or Se or Si not so much if I'm using my brain because everyone uses their brain lol.  Ne is a more actively descriptive function which can follow and verbalize episodically the abstract experience. Ni on the other hand is not descriptive due to it being nebulous in nature working subconciously then sparking with inexplicable moments of clarity.  Se is more graceful, confident and aggressive physically always seeking novelty where Si is more cautious, contextual and has an internal cognizance of being and seeks the safety of tradition.  Both ISFP and INFP have a great appreciation of the purity of unadulterated feelings in animals and children through dominant Fi values and a desire for efficiency which is not always made manifest because of their inferior Te function.  ISFPs and INFPs are both fairly "intuitive" when it comes to artistic expression which is why I think it is very hard for an ISFP or and INFP to know the difference.  I think ISFP is more pure in their expression of feelings of sight and sound in their grasp of the completeness of what they are experiencing.  On the other hand INFPs are more searching in their expression of amorphous so they focus more on the journey.  ISFP when seeking deeper within will tap more into their Fi-Ni flow which will feel more mystical before it is made known externally through Se (think of Enya music).  INFP will likewise will loop their Fi-Si into a need for security in a cozy narrative giving them assurance that all is well before Ne spins them out of control (which is why you will see INFPs saying "Om" or engaging in Yoga to help them calm down).  The tertiary is the safety net of the 4 cognitive functions and is often overlooked.

This is what I've gleaned from my research so far.  Perhaps this might be of help for some of you.

T⁰ny (not verified) says...

i still dont know which one i am😭

aspiegurl (not verified) says...

ISFP can be an Intuitive Sensor, which is me.  I use a lot of Sensing in my creations. My interests include Sensing type ones, like sports. NASCAR poems are an Intuitive Sensor thing, as sports are S, poetry N.  I have some stories online and use a lot of visuals in them, describing characters' faces.

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